Bakken Crude on DOT's Radar

January 2, 2014 09:33 AM

Federal officials warned earlier today that crude oil from the Bakken shale may be more volatile than other forms of crude. This comes following a run of explosions linked to Bakken crude including a July, 2013 mishap that killed 47 people in a Lac Megantic, Quebec train derailment. More recently, on Monday a train carrying Bakken crude derailed near Casselton, North Dakota where no injuries were reported, but the threat of fumes prompted officials to order the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

Given the nation's lagging pipeline infrastructure, more U.S. crude is shipped via rail. In 2009, 10,000 tanker cars were in use for crude transit. Today, that number is in the 400,000's as oil producers transit black gold from North Dakota and Montana to coastal markets.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has weighed in warning first responders, shippers and the general public that Bakken crude appears to be more subject to detonation than other forms of crude. These mishaps may renew the discussion regarding the Keystone pipeline and other projects. But until pipeline capacity improves, Bakken crude will continue to transit through Main Street America via rail.

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